The new UK government must make sustainable food and farming key to the future economy, addressing climate change, restoring nature and re-building public health. Here, we break down the six commitments we want to see from the new administration.

As we teeter on the edge of the next UK general election, the question for many farmers and, increasingly, a wider public concerned about unhealthy food, is whether food and farming will be a genuine priority for the next administration?

Farming has arguably never been so prominent within the political agenda as over the last 12 months. Headline grabbing protests have cast a spotlight on the many pressures currently facing farmers and our food system – including policy changes, economic hardship and extreme weather events linked to climate change.

The manifestos of all three of the UK’s main political parties have featured some kind of supportive message for the farming sector, with an emphasis on food security, local procurement and trade relationships. While many of the pledges are encouraging in their recognition of the need to transition to more sustainable and resilient farming practices, detail at this stage is lacking.

As we increasingly experience the damage inflicted by well over half a century of industrial agriculture – including devastating impacts upon public health, soil fertility and biodiversity – what is desperately needed is a cohesive and actionable long-term plan for agriculture, grounded in a regenerative, agroecological approach.

A food and farming manifesto

The next Government must make sustainable food and farming key to the future economy, addressing climate change, restoring nature and rebuilding public health. Here are the six commitments that we want to see from the new administration that will be key to enabling this.

1. Finance

Invest in a more holistic and integrated food and farming strategy, which addresses health, nature and climate challenges and rebuilds food security, by bringing together the Chancellor of the Exchequer with Secretaries of State for Defra, Departments of Health and Social Care, Education, Business and Trade, as well as leading businesses, to identify financial benefits for government and society as part of a ‘Food and Farming Council’.

2. Nature

Ensure the fields, not the margins, are at the centre of a strategy for nature friendly farming – producing healthy, safe and nutritious food for future generations in harmony with nature. Deliver this through Environmental Land Management schemes and a Land Use Framework.

3. Health

Treat agriculture as the primary health service, providing healthy and sustainably produced food for all, saving billions of pounds on treatment costs. Consider the role of farm visits in improving individual health and wellbeing, delivered through green social prescribing.

4. Education

Invest in food and farming education in schools by giving young people greater opportunities to visit sustainable farms, by increasing funding and support.

5. Local food

Put sustainable food on the public plate by ensuring that 50% of all food served in schools, hospitals, prisons and other public sector meals is produced locally and sustainably. Invest in local abattoirs, packing, processing and distribution facilities to re-localise our food system.

6. Measurement

Support the collection of on-farm data using common metrics, which measure the climate, nature and social impacts of farming support schemes, thereby providing evidence to the Treasury for the effective use of public money and avoiding greenwash claims. Ensure that these harmonised metrics underpin future food labelling.

Show your support

If you agree with what we are asking, please consider showing your support by adding your name to the Sustainable Food Trust manifesto.

Whatever the result of the 2024 election, we will be continuing our work, calling on the UK government to put food and farming at the heart of its priorities – something that is essential if we are to rebuild our health, allow nature to flourish, ensure food security and achieve net zero commitments.

To quote the SFT’s CEO, Patrick Holden, in a recent article for Edie, in which he shared his thoughts on the upcoming election, “Scaling regenerative agriculture could be one of the greatest challenges for humanity over the next 25 years, but it has the decisive advantage that there is no alternative.”

Please show your support now by signing our Food and Farming Manifesto.


Featured image shows Ben Thomas on Treveddoe Farm, Cornwall. Photographer: Christian Kay (Transfixus Creative).